Alberta government backs down on forced changes to the way doctors bill province

The Alberta government has cancelled controversial changes to the way doctors bill the province that it imposed unilaterally in February.

The reversal of changes to what’s known as “complex modifiers” comes as the province — and its healthcare system — grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The modifiers allow doctors to charge an additional fee for visits that stretch into 15 minutes. 

Doctors were outraged by the changes, which were announced when the government unilaterally scrapped the master agreement it had with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) without notification.

‘We’ve heard concerns’

Since then, the United Conservative Party government has faced a barrage of opposition from the AMA and its members, but has refused to back down until now. 

“We’ve heard concerns that this change would result in what has been called ’10-minute medicine,'” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday in a news release. 

“While we respectfully disagree with that characterization, we are nevertheless halting this change so that doctors can concentrate on the critical tasks at hand.”

The United Conservative Party government will strike a physician compensation advisory committee to “examine all aspects of the physician services funding model,” Shandro said.

AMA reaction

The move was welcomed by the AMA. 

“This is a significant step in supporting patients and physicians,” said Dr. Christine Molnar, the president of the AMA. 

“There is still work to be done. We will work in any venue to advance patient care and to reach a formal agreement between physicians and Alberta Health.”

More to come.

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